The buzz around wireless signal interference is getting louder. One company’s plan to launch a 4G wireless network has industries that use GPS signals for navigation (such as aviation, agriculture, national defense and more) concerned about potential signal interference, while those in the cellular phone industry are working to make this network come online and provide extended services.
The conflict centers around LightSquared, a Virginia-based company, which announced it has resolved any interference problems with a new system developed with Javad GNSS. The Javad system works with high-precision GPS devices, and preproduction units of 25 models will be released for public tests in October. It has been reported that the Javad GNSS systems could cost $50 to $300 per device.
In an open letter published in Monday’s edition of the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and the Washington Post, Sanjiv Ahuja, chairman and chief executive officer of LightSquared, defends the company’s use of its licensed spectrum and confirms its investment to eliminate any interference.
While LightSquared says the new system was simple to develop and acts as a filter to eliminate interference, some in the GPS industry are still skeptical.
Earlier testing in 2011, without the Javad GNSS system, reportedly resulted in interference between GPS and the LightSquared network. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has said it will not approve the network unless the problem can be solved.
The LightSquared network can operate on two different sets of frequencies on the spectrum band. For now, the company is moving forward to operate only on the upper portion that overlaps with consumer, aviation and other GPS devices, but it also wants to use a lower set of frequencies where, its critics say, its network would affect precision GPS.
Companies representing the potentially affected industries have formed an organization called the Coalition to Save Our GPS. The coalition has been the most outspoken group during LightSquared's progress toward FCC approval, but some politicians are also asking questions about the company.
Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio), chairman of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, has asked why the FCC and the Obama administration are considering approval while "significant" threats to national security are still being explored. He has charged that there was an "irregular process" for the LightSquared approval that some have tried to link to campaign contributions. Turner said he is asking the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to investigate. The office of that committee's chairman, Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), has confirmed that he will look into the complaints about LightSquared and political favoritism as part of a broader review of any inappropriate government intervention on behalf of a company.
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) says that LightSquared has benefited from "crony capitalism," a reference to one of LightSquared’s top investors, Phil Falcone. It is reported that Falcone gave $30,400 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in 2009 and that LightSquared CEO Ahuja contributed the same amount to the Democratic National Committee in 2010.
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